Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1
Infantry’s 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission. Helping ‘people
at home’ may become a permanent part of the active Army
By Gina Cavallaro - Army Times Staff writer
Posted : Monday Sep 8, 2008 6:15:06 EDT
3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the
last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping
restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.
Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at home.
Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control
of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as
an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies
and disasters, including terrorist attacks.
It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina
unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units
were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.
this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a
dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002
to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and
coordinate defense support of civil authorities.
1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another,
as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission
will be a permanent one.
“Right now, the response
force requirement will be an enduring mission. How the [Defense
Department] chooses to source that and whether or not they continue to
assign them to NorthCom, that could change in the future,” said Army
Col. Louis Vogler, chief of NorthCom future operations. “Now, the plan
is to assign a force every year.”
The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.,
but the soldiers with 1st BCT, who returned in April after 15 months in
Iraq, will operate out of their home post at Fort Stewart, Ga., where
they’ll be able to go to school, spend time with their families and
train for their new homeland mission as well as the counterinsurgency
mission in the war zones.
Stop-loss will not be in effect, so
soldiers will be able to leave the Army or move to new assignments
during the mission, and the operational tempo will be variable.
look for any extra time off, though. The at-home mission does not take
the place of scheduled combat-zone deployments and will take place
during the so-called dwell time a unit gets to reset and regenerate
after a deployment.
The 1st of the 3rd is still scheduled to
deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan in early 2010, which means the
soldiers will have been home a minimum of 20 months by the time they
In the meantime, they’ll learn new skills, use some
of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not
be shot at while doing any of it.
They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control
or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive
poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological,
radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.
for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes
specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the “jaws of life” to
extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a
CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how
to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.
1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal
package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger
Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and
nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals
without killing them.
“It’s a new modular
package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been
using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these
modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this
mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”
The package includes equipment to stand up
a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling
traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.
was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier,
describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10
throughout your whole body.
“I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds ... it put me on my knees in seconds.”
brigade will not change its name, but the force will be known for the
next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF
“I can’t think of a more noble
mission than this,” said Cloutier, who took command in July. “We’ve
been all over the world during this time of conflict, but now our
mission is to take care of citizens at home ... and depending on where
an event occurred, you’re going home to take care of your home town,
your loved ones.”
While soldiers’ combat training is applicable, he said, some nuances don’t apply.
we go in, we’re going in to help American citizens on American soil, to
save lives, provide critical life support, help clear debris, restore
normalcy and support whatever local agencies need us to do, so it’s
kind of a different role,” said Cloutier, who, as the division
operations officer on the last rotation, learned of the homeland
mission a few months ago while they were still in Iraq.
brigade elements will be on call around the clock, during which time
they’ll do their regular marksmanship, gunnery and other deployment
training. That’s because the unit will continue to train and reset for
the next deployment, even as it serves in its CCMRF mission.
personnel be needed at an earthquake in California, for example, all or
part of the brigade could be scrambled there, depending on the extent
of the need and the specialties involved.
Other branches included
The active Army’s new dwell-time mission is part of a NorthCom and DOD response package.
soldiers will be part of a force that includes elements from other
military branches and dedicated National Guard Weapons of Mass
Destruction-Civil Support Teams.
A final mission rehearsal
exercise is scheduled for mid-September at Fort Stewart and will be run
by Joint Task Force Civil Support, a unit based out of Fort Monroe,
Va., that will coordinate and evaluate the interservice event.
addition to 1st BCT, other Army units will take part in the two-week
training exercise, including elements of the 1st Medical Brigade out of
Fort Hood, Texas, and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Bragg,
There also will be Air Force engineer and medical units,
the Marine Corps Chemical, Biological Initial Reaction Force, a Navy
weather team and members of the Defense Logistics Agency and the
Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
One of the things Vogler said they’ll be looking at is communications capabilities between the services.
is a concern, and we’re trying to check that and one of the ways we do
that is by having these sorts of exercises. Leading up to this, we are
going to rehearse and set up some of the communications systems to make
sure we have interoperability,” he said.
“I don’t know what
America’s overall plan is — I just know that 24 hours a day, seven days
a week, there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are
standing by to come and help if they’re called,” Cloutier said. “It
makes me feel good as an American to know that my country has dedicated
a force to come in and help the people at home.”